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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - May 12, 2009

From: Mattituck, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Ground cover for shaded sandy soil in Long Island, NY
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live on the north fork of Long Island (Zone 7) I would like to find a grass or low ground cover that will grow in shaded sandy soil. The yard has quite a few trees. It also has to stand up to moderate foot traffic.

ANSWER:

The best we can do is go looking in our Native Plant Database for low growing plants native to New York that will tolerate shade. In terms of foot traffic, we would suggest paths or walkways with a layer of shredded hardwood mulch under your trees. It has to be replaced from time to time, but helps keep the ground and tree roots warm (or cool), holds in moisture, and can be walked on freely. As it decomposes, it continues to improve the texture of the soil beneath it, and is attractive.

We found several low-growing, blooming perennial plants, some of them evergreen. We also thought you might be interested in some native grasses, not very tall, that will do well in a shady condition, hold their place year-round, and are easy to care for. Again, they can't be walked on, but might serve as a border.

 

Blooming ground covers for Long Island

Claytonia caroliniana (Carolina springbeauty) - 4 to 12 inch stems, blooms white, pink April to June, part shade, moist soil

Maianthemum stellatum (starry false lily of the valley) - 8 to 10 inch stems, blooms white May and June, part shade or shade, dry soil

Mitchella repens (partridgeberry) - 2 inches tall, creeping evergreen, blooms white, pink, purple May to October

Phlox subulata (moss phlox) - less than 2 ft. tall, evergreen, blooms white, pink, purple March to June, high water use, sun or part shade

Viola pedata (birdfoot violet) - 4 to 10 inches tall, blooms blue, purple March to June, dry soil, part shade or shade

Grasses

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) - 2 to 3 ft. stems, medium water use, sun or part shade

Carex texensis (Texas sedge) - 10 to 12 inches tall, medium water use, sun or part shade

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) - 18 to 24 inches tall, water use low, sun or part shade


Claytonia caroliniana

Maianthemum stellatum

Mitchella repens

Phlox subulata

Viola pedata

Bouteloua curtipendula

Carex texensis

Schizachyrium scoparium

 

 

 

 

 

 

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